What if the South had won the Civil War? What if marijuana never had been an outlaw? What would you do if your nose disappeared? What is the appropriate response when aliens hovering in large Midol tablets start killing everyone you have sex with?
The 28th annual James River Film Festival, which runs from March 31 to April 2 in theaters across the city, only asks the big questions.
“Director Wim Wenders once said that there were two films. There’s the one you started making and the one you actually made,” explains Michael Jones, co-founder and director of the association to nonprofit James River Film Society, which has presented the multi-day moviethon since 1994. two years.” [Editor’s note: Style will be re-publishing several interviews that we did in 2020 with festival guests who were postponed by the pandemic until this year. We’ll post these in the lead-up week to the festival].
After JRFF 2020 was canceled due to coronavirus lockdowns, and last year’s paired installment went virtual-only, Richmond’s longest-running film showcase is back with a schedule of items we’ve been waiting for. see – art films, documentaries, cult films, striking experimental shorts, even an Oscar winner or two.
According to Andy Edmunds, director of the Virginia Film Office, which donates operating funds to the James River Film Society and its annual short film showcase, the festival is special because it is designed for moviegoers. “James River is less about Klieg lights and the red carpet and more about the practicalities, the blood and sweat of bringing projects to screen, and the best in movies,” says -he. “Because of the expert curation of Michael Jones and company, it also unearths older films that more people should see and know about.”
Some of this year’s archival discoveries are of particular significance to Richmond audiences, like Russian director Slava Tsukerman’s ‘Liquid Sky’, set for April 1 at the Byrd Theatre, an intriguing cult sci-fi flick that galvanized local moviegoers when it was screened here in 1983.
“It’s kind of an allegory for the AIDS epidemic that was rampant in America at the time,” says James River Film Society board member Coleman Jennings. “He also has a unique take on gender identity that feels contemporary now.” Read Brent Baldwin’s 2020 interview with Tsukerman here.
“Sometimes it takes a stranger to really see America,” Jones adds. “Tsukerman was a Russian émigré who made this huge underground hit with an androgynous star, Anne Carlisle, who became a cult icon. He was hugely popular here in Richmond when he came out, for six weeks at the Biograph. And most importantly, he helped revive the whole New York independent film scene of the 80s, with the likes of Jim Jarmusch and Spike Lee.”
Speaking of Spike Lee, another special guest this year will be director/writer Kevin Willmott, the Oscar-winning co-writer of Lee’s “BlackkKlansman,” which tells the true story of an African-American police officer who goes undercover in the Ku Klux Klan. Willmott will answer questions after a screening at the Byrd Theater on April 3. This follows Byrd’s screening of the filmmaker’s provocative “Confederate States of America,” a hypothetical tale that Jones calls “still relevant.” It’s a BBC mockumentary made in a world where the South has won the war, a very dark satire.”
Canadian director Ron Mann will also be on hand for three of his acclaimed documentaries, “Grass,” about the politics of pot, paired with “Poetry in Motion,” which features the legendary characters of Allen Ginsburg and Charles Bukowski and has been hailed as the “Woodstock” of poetry. This double feature is at the Byrd on April 2. Mann’s “Carmine Street Guitars,” the story of a quirky New York instrument store, will be screened at the Grace Street Theater on the same day. Read Style Weekly’s 2020 interview with Mann here.
“Canada has always had a strong history in documentary and animation,” says Jones. “That’s because they’re publicly funded by the country’s film board. In terms of reputation, Mann is the non-fiction equivalent of Les Blank or Albert Maysles here in America.” The director has become a JRFF favorite – last year’s virtual festival featured his acclaimed documentary on comic book history, ‘Comic Book Confidential’.
Another festival favorite from years past, pioneering African-American filmmaker Charles Burnett, the director of the landmark film “Killer of Sheep,” is represented by his “Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property,” his 2003 docudrama about the infamous chef of an 1831 slave revolt in Southhampton County, Virginia. “The genius of the movie,” says Jones, “is how it shows the separation in how the black and white community saw Turner, he was either a murderer or a savior.” This is the third time that the little-aired public television production has been presented at the JRFF. The April 2 viewing of Byrd will also include a Q&A with two local actors who appeared in the film, Harry Kollatz and Mark Joy.
There’s also the April 3 screening at the Grace St. Theater of the feature debut of another famous African-American director, Shirley Clarke, the only female member of the hallowed New American Cinema Group, long out of distribution and recently restored. , “The Connection” is a gritty, jazz-infused work about drug addiction and “waiting for the man” that was originally banned in the United States
For fans of innovative animation, the festival presents the US premiere of Andrei Khrzhanovsky’s “The Nose,” a surreal fantasy that depicts composer Dmitry Shostakavich’s attempts to write an opera based on a state-banned short story ( about a missing sniffer) by Ukrainian author, Nikola Gogol. “I swear it wasn’t supposed to be so timely,” Jones says. “We booked the movie months ago.” This Jan. 2 screening at the Byrd will also feature one of the Russian director’s acclaimed shorts, a tribute to Italian director Federico Fellini titled “The Long Journey.”
For those tuned into the avant-garde, there will be a series of wild impressionist shorts by experimental filmmaker Stan Brakhage at the Grace St. Theater on April 1 – each print is different and has been hand-colored by Brakhage. Also screened will be works by Brakhage’s colleague Phil Solomon, whose films are described in the notes as “visionary and multi-layered, a product of his fascination with the optical printer and the deterioration of the surface of film”.
Festival viewings are $8 each, but there are two free events you can’t miss. Things are kicking off with a pre-festival screening this Sunday, March 20 of Ed Wood’s “Plan 9 from Outer Space” at — where else — Plan 9 Music in Carytown. Katharine Coldironthe author of a book on the infamous “worst movie ever made”, will speak.
From the ridiculous to the sublime, Jean Coctau’s 1946 black-and-white fairy tale ‘Beauty and the Beast’, which has been hailed as a dreamlike masterpiece, is slated for Richmond’s Main Public Library on April 1st.
“We try to show things that you can’t see anywhere else, but we also try to have something for everyone,” says Jennings. “I would say it’s the cornerstone of a community film festival.”
To find out more about the James River Film Festival 2022, go to jamesriverfilm.org
Sunday March 20
“Plan 9 from Outer Space” (dir: Ed Wood, 1959, 80 min.) with critic and author Katharine Coldiron at Plan 9 Music in Carytown, 5:30 p.m. Free.
Thursday, March 31st
“The Rumba Kings” (dir: Alan Brain, 2021, 94 min.) at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 6:30 p.m., admission $8.
friday april 1st
“Beauty & the Beast” (dir: Jean Cocteau, ’46, 93 min.) At the main branch of the Richmond Public Library, 1:00 p.m. Free.
The Cult Films of Stan Brakhage and Phil Solomon at Grace St. Theatre, VCU at 7 p.m. $8
“Liquid Sky” (dir: Slava Tsukerman, 1983, 110 min.) at Grace St. Theatre, VCU at 9 p.m. $8
saturday april 2
“Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property” (dir: Charles Burnett, 2003) with actors Harry Kollatz and Mark Joy, at the Byrd Theater, 10:30 a.m. $8
“Grass” (2000, 80 min.) / “Poetry in Motion” (’82, 90 min.) (dir: Ron Mann) with special guest Ron Mann! At the Byrd Theatre, 1 p.m. $8
“The Nose” (dir: Andrei Khrzhanovsky, 2020, 89 min.) with The Long Journey (dir: Khrzhanovsky, ’97, 21 min.) at the Byrd Theatre, 4:30 p.m. $8
“Carmine St. Guitars” (dir: Ron Mann, 2019, 80 min.) With special guest Ron Mann at the Grace St. Theater at 8 p.m. $8
Sunday April 3
“Confederate States of America (dir/scr: Kevin Willmott, 2004, 89 min.) With special guest Kevin Wilmott, at the Byrd Theater, 1:30 p.m. $8
“BlackkKlansman (dir: Spike Lee, 2018, 135 min.) With special guest Kevin Wilmott at the Byrd Theater, 4:00 p.m. $8
“The Connection” (dir: Shirley Clarke, 1961, 110 min.) at Grace St. Theatre, 7:30 p.m. $8